Ex­plore the long range of grey

The op­po­site of dra­matic high con­trast is a fo­cus on the mid-tones

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The op­po­site ap­proach to the dra­matic high con­trast/deep blacks men­tioned on page 77 is a long range of mid-tones, and it too has a legacy in tra­di­tion. The legacy is that of plat­inum and pal­la­dium prints, which started at the end of the 19th cen­tury. As an al­ter­na­tive process, they are en­joy­ing a re­vival, and while this isn’t re­ally rel­e­vant to us here, the side ef­fect is a dif­fer­ent black and white aes­thetic, one in which the mid­dle greys are ex­panded. The re­sult may not be as exciting as the punchy ef­fect of strong black to strong white, but it has the ap­peal of sub­tlety. There’s less em­pha­sis on strik­ing shapes and graph­ics, more on nuance.

It’s a com­mon view that plat­inum and pal­la­dium prints have a very long range, but in fact the to­tal range is con­sid­er­ably less than a nor­mal black and white im­age, mainly be­cause the dark­est tones are well above a pure black, But it’s the sep­a­ra­tion of the mid-tones, from dark grey to light grey, that marks this way of shoot­ing and pro­cess­ing. In the ex­am­ple shown above, the dy­namic range in the scene was not par­tic­u­larly high, which al­lowed the mid­dle greys to be pulled apart dur­ing pro­cess­ing for good sep­a­ra­tion. At the same time, un­like a plat­inum print, dig­i­tal pro­cess­ing al­lows black and white points to be set eas­ily, giv­ing you, to my mind at least, the best of both worlds.

Low heavy sum­mer clouds roll over Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye. The re­sult is a suc­ces­sion of greys that tie land and sky to­gether

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